CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- James Franklin hated to disappoint the crowd, but the Vanderbilt head coach announced he'd be making a dry and boring speech when he stepped to the podium to address the Chattanooga Quarterback Club Monday.
The third-year head coach had clearly learned from past mistakes.
"Everyone talks about all the excitement in this state (around Vanderbilt football), and it's true. There's excitement in half the state, but hatred in the other half," Franklin said to a round of laughter. "I'm going to have to be dry and boring because usually when there's a camera on, I say about two or three things a year that get me or Vanderbilt in trouble, so I'm going to try not to do that today."
It's been awhile since a Vanderbilt coach had to worry about such dilemmas, but the out-spoken, energetic and social media savvy Franklin is nothing like the school's previous coaches.
The former Maryland assistant was hired two years ago after an abysmal 2-10 season, and has spent every moment since speaking his mind and firing up fans and foes alike.
Especially when it comes to the state of Tennessee.
"I can tweet about puppies and rainbows and people are going to find a negative in it," joked Franklin, who gets plenty of feedback from University of Tennessee fans through his constant use of Twitter and Facebook. "The issue I have is if I tweet anything out with a spelling error or a grammatical error, I get killed because I'm at Vanderbilt."
But Franklin has certainly backed up his brash style.
Vanderbilt has long been the doormat of a dominant SEC, but his mission was to instill a championship mentality from the start.
"The biggest challenge we had when I was hired was changing the perception of Vanderbilt football, and that had to start with our own team and program before we changed it conference-wide or nationwide," Franklin said. "When I first got here, people would ask what are your plans and your goals? Our goals are always to win an SEC championship and a national championship.
"I don't know any other goals to set. What do you do, say it would be awesome to be third place this year? Who does that?"
His team bought in and success quickly followed.
The Commodores have enjoyed the program's first-ever back-to-back bowl appearances in Franklin's first two years, and currently own the SEC's longest winning streak at seven games.
They won nine games last fall for the first time since 1915, and did so despite having just two players selected in last weekend's NFL Draft. Alabama, in comparison, had a school-record nine players picked.
"I think it speaks volumes that we won that many games with probably the least amount of guys drafted and going to the NFL (in the SEC)," said Franklin, who also had four players sign rookie free agent deals. "I think you're going to see that change very soon because it's all about development, and no one is developing players better than we are right now."
The program as a whole is on the fast track with stadium expansion and facility upgrades on the horizon after Franklin's recent contract extension.
He touts his team's inclusion in the exclusive "20-20-20 Club" on the recruiting trail, selling the fact that Vanderbilt finished in the top 20 last season, earned a top 20 recruiting class and ranked in the top 20 overall as an academic institution.
Only Notre Dame can boast a similar feat.
As for his recipe for success, Franklin said it's simple: build relationships and trust.
Using phrases like "Vanderbuild" and "Anchor Down," he's formed an inclusive collective mindset that has changed the outlook of college football in the Music City.
If you have strong bonds with your players and they have strong bonds with each other, Franklin says the result will take care of itself.
"You can be unbelievably demanding and challenging and hard on people if you love them hard as well. Our players know they have a coaching staff that cares about them and has their back," he said. "The best compliments I get are when people say how hard our players play for us. That's because they don't want to let us down and we don't want to let them down as coaches.
"It's about hard work, attention to detail and having that collective mentality. Working on those types of things in any business or organization will help you find success."
Can't find what you're looking for?